By: Lucy Dabbs, Georges P. Vanier Secondary School, participant of the 2017 Beijing International Education Exchange (BIEE) Summer Camp.
I was familiar with the silk market of Shanghai and assumed this one would be along the same lines. Lots of little stores and tables set up, slightly aggressive and loud vendors with steel looks that could make me shiver despite the thirty-five-degree heat. Bargaining skills a must, unless you were okay with paying more than the price in Canada. Preferable to have good judgement for the value of sale items.
What I was not expecting was the wall of fidget spinners, hundreds of fidget spinners. More than just every colour of the rainbow, numerous shapes, sizes, and materials. Some with gears, some light aluminium, some tempered rainbow steel, and some heavy solid metal. I was captivated and mortified at the same time.
The silk market was huge, and we didn't have much time. I knew I had to use my time wisely and pulled myself away from the fidget spinner table to start checking items off my list. We were given cards to keep track of our purchases and were instructed to collect all receipts. We had an hour to cover 4 floors. First on my list, a panda hat.
After combing three floors and passing through multiple shops with I <3 Beijing souvenir shirts, I discovered the panda-everything store, and there it was: the beloved panda had I'd been searching for. I picked it out, and after only one failed attempt I was able to bargain it down more than half the original price (which is outrageous to begin with so that's not a huge accomplishment).
Bargaining is something that everyone approaches differently. One should come into the situation with the assumption all vendors are out to cheat you, and despite their insistence on how much of a good deal the price is, they are manipulating your emotions. Many have trained like the Navy Seals, this is their livelihood set out on the shelves.
For some, going back and forth with numbers is an adrenaline rush, a strategic and calculated practice that when tuned properly can result in some worthwhile purchases. And for me, no matter how hard I tried my tough girl act "don't cheat me I know what this is worth" didn't play out as I'd hoped. I suppose my 5'2 and a half frame and flower in my hair didn't help.
Eventually, I learned to use my appearance to my advantage, and play the nice card. I let myself be innocent and friendly, admiring their merchandise while not looking too interested. Once the price reached a reasonable amount of yuan, I kept it there, adamant I could not go any higher, until they agreed.
This newfound use of my baby face earned me two packages of ancient Puerb tea, and six fidget spinners. Now, who needs six fidget spinners? The citizens of Canada do, I justified to my aghast friends in order to preserve my sanity. They weren't for me, I told them, I was going to flip them for profit in Canada, where such cool fidgets spinners weren’t available.